Character Quotes

Quotations about Character

This mildly odd collection is what came up when I did a ‘Search’ on the word ‘character’ inside my 136-page Quotations document. (You’ll see what I mean by “mildly odd” soon enough, I think!)

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” – Khalil Gibran

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” – James D. Miles

7 root causes or “blunders” which lead to violence, passed along by Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi (& sent to Ann Landers):   

  • wealth without work

  • pleasure without conscience

  • education without character

  • commerce without morality

  • science without humanity

  • worship without sacrifice

  • politics without principle

“Things worth remembering: the value of time...the success of perseverance...the dignity of simplicity...the worth of character...the virtue of patience...the wisdom of economy...the power of kindness.” – A ‘Gem of the Day’ from Ann Landers

“And what I’ve learned is not to believe in magical leaders anymore, that character and compassion are more important than ideology, and that even if it’s absurd to think you can change things, it’s even more absurd to think that it’s foolish and unimportant to try.” – Peter C. Newman

“Character is defined by what you are willing to do when the spotlight has been turned off, the applause has died down, and no one is around to give you credit.” (source unknown)

“In truth, we are each the weaver on the loom of our own making, weaving the weft of our affections and aspirations, antipathies and desires on the warp of our character that we have built through many lives, and which will be the foundation for incarnations to come.” – Grace F. Knoche, 1997

“What magnifies a voice is its human character, its compassion, honesty, and intelligence, and against the weight of things as they are the best resource is the imaginative labor of trying to tell the truth.” – Lewis Lapham, Harper’s Magazine

“If you take care of your character, your reputation will take care of itself.” – sign seen at church

“It is possible that the scientific character of mind is by its nature childish, capable through life of a child’s wonder and excitements, but lacking real discernment, lacking sadness, too easily delighted by its own intellect. There are exceptions, of course, the physicist Steven Weinberg, for example, whom I’ve read and who has the moral gravity you would want from a scientist.” – E.L. Doctorow in his novel City of God, Random House, New York 2000, pg. 12.

“It’s kinda hard to teach character when you don’t live character.” – George Bush, May 13, 2004. (& he ought to know!!)

“Thoughts become words. Words become actions. Actions become character. Character is everything.” – Source unknown (seen on a hospital wall one time…)

“Do-er and deed co-arise. Hence our continuity of character, bearing the stamp of repeated choice and habit. Hence also our freedom, for new options arise with each present act of will.” – Joanna Macy, in her book World as Lover, World as Self – Courage for Global Justice & Ecological Renewal

“Character is the internalization of responsibility. What we are talking about when we talk about a local food system or CSA is a food system that relies more on character than it does on legal, bureaucratic, or commercial procedures.” ~ Wendell Berry, quoted in “Safe Food News”

When asked why the cellist is risking his life every day to play his cello on the street in the spot where 22 people were killed while waiting at a bakery to buy bread, the character Dragan says to Emina, “Maybe he’s playing for himself. Maybe it’s all he knows how to do, and he’s not doing it to make something happen.” ‘And he thinks this is true. What the cellist wants isn’t a change, or to set things right again, but to stop things from getting worse. Because, as the optimist in Emina’s mother’s joke said, it can always get worse. But perhaps the only thing that will stop it from getting worse is people doing the things they know how to do.’” – from The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway

“Girls are smart. Without exception, they can always tell what’s happening around them, even when they’re young.” – the character Love Liu, in the novel English, by Wang Gang

“Sometimes you have to look very hard at a person and remember he’s doing the best he can.” – the character Ethel Thayer in the movie ‘On Golden Pond’

“All our discontents about what we want appeared to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have.” – the character Robinson Crusoe, in the novel of the same name, quoted by Marian Fowler, author of the book In the Embroidered Tent – 5 Gentlewomen in Early Canada

“I imagine there’s probably so much quiet where you are when you’re cold and dead, you might as well say how crazy you are about people while you have a mouth and teeth and tongue.” ~ Fictional character Ruth, in The Book of Ruth, by Jane Hamilton

“In his experience, great wounds sometimes healed, small sometimes festered. Any wound might heal on the skin side but keep on burrowing inward to a man’s core until it ate him up. The why of it, like much in life, offered little access to logic.” ~ The character Inman from the novel Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier

“A politician is required to listen to humbug, talk humbug, condone humbug. The most we can hope for is that we don’t actually believe it.” – Character in P.D. James’ A Taste for Death

“For the mind, everything is in the future; for the heart, everything is in the past.” – Andrei Platanov, Russian writer (quoted by the character Lucjan in The Winter Vault, a novel by Anne Michaels)

“Life is short, there is not enough time to forget everything.” – Andrei Platanov, Russian writer (quoted by the character Lucjan in The Winter Vault, a novel by Anne Michaels)

“If you can’t have a good relationship with somebody, then you should at least have a good relationship with your work. Your work should feel like … an incredible person lying next to you in bed.” – the character Ethan speaking to his friend Jonah in the novel The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer

“I should just breathe in and out and be brave. But not knowing what is going to happen next and living with the hope that whatever it is it won’t be too difficult to understand is like driving at top speed with the windshield completely painted over with a picture of where you used to live.” – character David in the Scott Spencer novel Endless Love

“Anarchists are people who believe with all their hearts that governments are enemies of their own people.” – character in Kurt Vonnegut novel Jailbird

“There will always be a few troglodytes.” – main character in the novel In One Person, by John Irving (he is speaking of people intolerant of sexual diversity; quote is on Pg. 398.)

“There was another life that I might have had, but I am having this one.” So says a character in Kazuo Ishiguro's novel *The Unconsoled* (from Rob Brezsny)

“I didn’t mean to be brave, it just happened when I panicked.” – allegedly said by Piglet (a character in the A.A. Milne Winnie-the-Pooh stories)

“But you were saying men – ”

“Right. They’re like egos on legs. Monsters. It’s almost pathetic. They just honestly don’t know other people exist. Specially if those people are women. You have to keep on reminding them. Then the nicer ones snap their fingers and say, ‘By golly, yes! – sorry – you’re quite right. My, my. Those things out there are people.’ But then they always forget again. Every time.” – the character Lally in the novel Prospero’s Daughter, by Constance Beresford-Howe

Alexander McCall Smith has the character Angus Lordie say, in Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers, “He [psychiatrist Dr. Macgregor] told me that the solution to so many problems is to talk about them. If you talk freely about a problem, then you take away its power to distress you.”

“Given this ugly sentiment, [a character in the novel had just made an ugly, blatantly racist remark] Miss Beryl couldn’t decide whether it was appropriate to sympathize with Mr. Blue, but she did anyway. An imperfect human heart, perfectly shattered, was her conclusion. A condition so common as to be virtually universal, rendering issues of right and wrong almost incidental.” – from Nobody’s Fool, by Richard Russo

“Sometimes I wonder if he wasn't born dead. I never met a man who was less interested in the living. Sometimes I think that's the trouble with the world: too many people in high places who are stone-cold dead.” – character in Cat’s Cradle, speaking of Felix Hoenikker

“I wonder if she remembers that gift as well as I do. We didn’t have so many things in those days. There weren’t so many things to have. There was more to look forward to, but less to possess. It’s the other way round now.” – main character in the novel The Seven Sisters, by Margaret Drabble

“But people desire fair government. You say that constantly.”

“They want to believe in heroes, also. And villains. Especially when frightened. It’s less taxing than the truth.” – conversation between Trotsky & book’s main character, in The Lacuna, a fascinating novel by Barbara Kingsolver (pg. 244)

“Epictetus says that everything has two handles, one by which it can be borne and one by which it cannot. If your brother sins against you, he says, don’t take hold of it by the wrong he did you but by the fact that he’s your brother. That’s how it can be borne.” – Character in Anne Tyler novel Noah’s Compass

“Nothing so reminds you like the sea that the enemy of life is not death but loneliness.” – character in the novel The Navigator of New York, by Wayne Johnston

“The world’s a headmaster who works on your faults. I don’t mean in a mystical or Jesus way. More how you’ll keep tripping over a hidden step, over and over, till you finally understand it. Watch out for that step! Everything that’s wrong with us, if we’re too selfish or too Yessir, Nosir, Three bags full sir or too anything, that’s a hidden step. Either you suffer the consequences of not noticing your fault forever or, one day, you do notice it, and fix it. Joke is, once you get it into your brain about that hidden step and think, Hey, life isn’t such a shithouse after all again, then BUMP! Down you go, a whole new flight of hidden steps.  There are always more.” – main character in David Mitchell’s novel Black Swan Green

“A woman is an important somebody and sometimes you win the triple crown: good food, good sex, and good talk. Most men settle for any one, happy as a clam if they get two. But listen, let me tell you something. A good man is a good thing, but there is nothing in the world better than a good, good woman. She can be your mother, your wife, your girlfriend, your sister, or somebody you work next to. Don’t matter. You find one, stay there. You see a scary one, make tracks.” – grandfather character Sandler Gibbons speaking to his grandson Romen, from the novel Love, by Toni Morrison

“Above all else, the mentat [advisor] must be a generalist, not a specialist. It is wise to have decisions of great moment monitored by generalists. Experts and specialists lead you quickly into chaos. They are a source of useless nit-picking, the ferocious quibble over a comma. The generalist, on the other hand, should bring to decision-making a healthy common sense. He must cut himself off from the broad sweep of what is happening in his universe. He must remain capable of saying: “There’s no real mystery about that at the moment. This is what we want now. It may prove wrong later, but we’ll correct that when we come to it.”

The generalist must understand that anything that we can identify as our universe is merely part of a larger phenomenon. But the expert looks backward; he looks into the narrow standards of his own specialty. The generalist looks outward; he looks for living principles, knowing full well that such principles change, that they develop.

It is to the characteristics of change that the generalist must look. There can be no permanent catalogue of such change, no handbook or manual. You must look at it with as few preconceptions as possible, asking yourself: “Now what is this thing doing?” – ‘The Mentat Handbook’ quoted as “The Wisdom of Dune,” by Frank Herbert, in CCPA Monitor, April 2008

** I did warn that this is an odd collection. But ... some great quotations here, no??